Dr Alexander Harwood Taylor

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Senior Lecturer


Having studied biology at Oxford University, I then won a Commonwealth scholarship for a PhD at the University of Auckland. I then moved to the University of Cambridge, where I was awarded a Junior Research Fellowship at Corpus Christi College. I took up a position as Lecturer at the University of Auckland in 2011. In 2014 I was awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship and was promoted to Senior Lecturer. In 2015 I was awarded the Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Award from the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Research | Current

One of the great mysteries of biology is intelligence. Why does it evolve? What structure does it take? Can its evolution be predicted? I study the minds of humans, crows and keas, using theoretical and experimental approaches from both biology and psychology, in order to gain insight into this area. By comparing these groups we can identify possible drivers of the evolution of intelligence. Given that birds and humans are separated by 300 million years of evolution, we can also test if intelligence evolves convergently. That is, we can discover whether the same cognitive structures evolve time and again in response to the same selection pressures. 

As well as my focus on the evolution of intelligence, I am currently conducting research on the promotion of prosocial behaviours in humans, the communication of climate change awareness and the effect of science communication on attitudes towards science and the enviroment.


Areas of expertise

Animal behaviour, animal cognition, child development, comparative cognition, causal reasoning, evolution of intelligence

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)


Contact details

Alternative contact

Extension number: 85010

Primary location

Level 6, Room 625
New Zealand

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